In a Bubble (Part Two of Three): Who Are You Worshipping With?
One of the realities of congregational life in most settings is that worship services across America tend to be racially pretty homogeneous. Latinos worship together. African Americans worship together. Whites worship together. This is just the way it is almost all the time.
In the denomination to which I belong (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), changing this has been a stated goal for the entire thirty years of our existence. Sadly, the overall percentage of people participating in our denomination who are not white hasn’t moved much. And within congregational life, very few congregations have found ways out of the pattern we already mentioned – people pretty much hang out with people like them. Worship is rarely diverse in ways that even start to look like the world around us.
To begin to change this, we have to start helping people find ways to worship with people other than the ones they hang out with. This will never happen by itself.
Every congregation should scan the horizon around its community and be consciously aware of the racial and ethnic diversity that is there. Explore the churches and other religious groups that are present. Start to build relationships with one or more of them. Have social gatherings, shared worship experiences, pulpit exchanges and other things that connect people.
If we wait for congregations to integrate, many of the older members of our churches will never meet and engage new people in a church setting. But if we decide how to meet new people and go forth with openness, respect and a desire to learn – the chances to expand our connections to the people God has made and the world that God loves are endless. The chance to change this will be well worth the effort.